Dancing in the Shadows by Laura Bryannan

Chapter 8


The safest way to explore the experiences of abuse in your past is to insure you have some strong support mechanisms in place. The best form of support is to put yourself in the hands of a loving and knowledgeable therapist or counselor. However, not all women can afford professional therapy. If you are one of these women, try to find at least one friend you can tell about your experiences. Just knowing there is someone you can call if you're feeling out of control can create enough safety in your life so that healing can occur much faster.

Friends and allies come in all shapes and sizes, and they don't have to be people! There are many sources of support survivors can call on both from within themselves and without. All of the beings and energies invoked from the meditations listed below can be called upon during times of duress and need. Different ones may be better suited to different situations. Experiment with how they feel to you and you'll know who to call when you're needing some help.

Highest Self Meditation

Your Highest Self is what you might call your Heavenly Blueprint. She is where you came from and where you will some day be returning. She is the part of you that remains perfect, Holy and forever in touch with Spirit--the defilement of your abuse never touched her. Various teachings label this part of us in different ways but the labels are unimportant. The only thing you need to understand is that she is there for you any time you need her. She can give you solace, support and hope in ways that no one else can.

If you only do one process out of this book, this is the one to do. Make a promise that you will go to visit your Highest Self in meditation for five or ten minutes at least once a day. As you get to know her, you will re-experience some of the light, love, wisdom and peace that you have had all along (but have lost touch with). The more you get to know her, the more she will be able to shine through you. If you can truly let her manifest in your daily life, you'll find that nothing will ever be the same again!

CAVEAT: Some survivors have trouble with this meditation. Their self-image is so damaged, they project it onto their Highest Self so that she seems intimidating in some way. One friend said to me, "I don't think my Highest Self likes me very much." Some report seeing her on the other side of a river, or from a great distance. Some survivors can't let themselves experience their Highest Self at all; nothing comes to them when they try to find her. If you encounter such a woman in your group you can help by telling her it's okay to make up what her Highest Self might be like if nothing comes to her by itself. Such a woman will have a hard time letting herself imagine a beautiful, strong, and loving Highest Self, so you or the group must support her in not putting limits on her imagination.


It has been known since ancient times that the animal kingdom contains wise, loving, and healing energies. Each animal "tribe" works with different powers and abilities, most of which make good sense if you study the characteristics and habits of the animal in question. For example, the bear, who "dies" and is reborn each spring at the end of hibernation, has been known all over the world as a bringer of transformation and healing. Bear cults were some of the first forms of prehistoric religion.

Survivors can utilize the various animal energies as support when struggling with various issues. One of the easiest ways to get to know the various animal energies is to invest in the Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals, by Jamie Sams and David Carson (Bear & Co., 1988). The Medicine Cards were created to be an oracle like the Tarot, however they contain a wealth of information about many North American animals that can help you get to know what realms of life each animal works best with.

When you're feeling in need of support on a particular issue you can relax, quiet your mind, and call on the animal that works with that issue and receive guidance from it. For example, according to some Native American traditions, the Elk works with stamina, the Deer with gentleness, the Skunk with issues of reputation, the Butterfly with transformation, and the Otter with woman medicine. These animal's energies are freely available to those who seek their support. The instructions that accompany the Medicine Cards also provide many different ways you can work with them in order to get in touch with the particular animal's energies that are present for you at any specific time.

Another way to work with animals, if you don't want to purchase the Medicine Cards, is to think of the animals that you are drawn to. Do you love cats, horses, dogs, birds, kangaroos? What characteristics do you admire about the animals you are drawn to? For example, cats are sleek, curious, mysterious and independent. Are these qualities you like about yourself, or qualities you would like to acquire more of? Chances are, the animals you like have attributes that you either contain yourself or are learning about. You are probably, on some level or another, working with these animals already. Try calling on the energies of the animals you like the next time you're down or scared. You may be surprised at how tangible their response is.

Inner Child vs. Inner Animal

There has been much talk recently about getting in touch with your inner child: to re-parent and champion her, and to help her release her fear, sadness, pain and anger. For survivors, this is ultimately a necessary thing. However, many survivors are very angry at their inner child, for she represents the part of them that "allowed" the abuse to occur. It may not matter that the woman was abused as a baby or young child, obviously unable to do anything to stop it; she may still feel that the little girl she was betrayed her. This kind of thinking allows all sorts of self-abuse to occur in a survivor, and it may be very hard for her to be kind to her inner child in any way.

If you feel that this is the case with you, try imagining your inner child as a small puppy, kitten or other animal you're fond of. The next time your inner child is scared or sad, think of her as a lost baby animal scratching at your back door during a rainstorm. What would you do in such a situation? Well, you'd probably let her in, snuggle her in warm towels, and feed her some milk. You certainly wouldn't scream at her to shut up, tell her she has no right to be afraid, or tell her she's stupid to be trying to get in from the rain.

It's not unusual for survivors to like animals better than people. Thus, you may find that it's much easier to treat your inner child kindly, listen to her fears or troubles, and find ways to help her if you imagine her as a woebegone little beastie rather than yourself as a little girl.

Animal Champion

All of us are connected to the animal kingdom by virtue of our own wild and instinctual natures. We may have lost touch with the parts of us that know how to be alive in this way, but such awareness is never erased completely. Even the most civilized "good" girls feel the urge sometimes (even if it's only in secret) to play, create, fight, run, get dirty, growl, and howl at the moon. The following exercise is designed to help us reconnect with the animal that can be our teacher, protector and champion. This animal will often turn out to be different than the animals we like.

Archetypes in Oracles

Learning to work with a particular oracle can be another way to give yourself support when you need it. Each oracle has a different kind of personality. For example, working with the I Ching is like talking things over with a wise Chinese grandfather. Each of the sixty-four hexagrams in the I Ching represent a different stage of life's unfoldment. You can meditate on a hexagram that illustrates a particular struggle in your life and get new insight into your problem. One of my favorite translations of the hexagrams is Sam Reiffler's, I Ching: A New Interpretation for Modern Times (Bantam, 1974). He has taken the often arcane and mind-boggling traditional interpretations and translated them into modern English, which makes them much easier to apply to today's life.

The major arcana of the Tarot represents twenty-two different archetypal energies. Each one can be called on during meditation for guidance and support. The Empress, for example, represents the energies of the Great Goddess in her aspects of mother, creatress, and nurturer, whereas the High Priestess represents the Great Goddess in her aspects of keeper-of-the-mysteries. Depending on what you're trying to accomplish, the archetypal energies represented in a Tarot deck can be there to strengthen and advise.

The Motherpeace deck and accompanying book by Vicki Noble, Motherpeace: A Way to the Goddess Through Myth, Art and Tarot (Harper & Row, 1983) can be a good place to start if you're unfamiliar with the Tarot. The book provides women-oriented explanations of the major arcana that are superior to many other more traditional books on Tarot interpretation. The deck itself is a wonderful celebration of women in all cultures.

CAVEAT: I am not talking here about using oracles in the usual way--that is, to predict the future. I am talking about meditating on the archetypal energies represented in any particular oracle and using them for emotional support. It is very easy, especially when upset or scared, to obsess over a Tarot or I Ching reading and take it much too seriously. In fact, asking questions of an oracle when upset or scared is the worst time to consult it, as you will probably end up with a reading describing your distress, not the issue you asked the question about.

Another way to receive support is to pull out a favorite book of spiritual teaching, whether it be the Bible, the Gita, Course in Miracles, or a book of beloved poems. Sit quietly and get in touch with the issue at hand, then open the book randomly. Chances are, there will be something worthwhile and relevant to your concerns on the pages you've opened. Let yourself be open to the wisdom of the teaching in that particular book.

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Last Updated: 1 feb 99
Laura Bryannan